Commentary

Charlie Morton's huge improvement

The Pittsburgh pitcher has an impressive 2.51 ERA this season

Originally Published: June 1, 2011
By Matt Meyers | ESPN Insider
Charlie MortonDoug Pensinger/Getty ImagesCharlie Morton is turning heads with his impressive pitching so far this season.

When a player has been in the majors for a few seasons, we usually have a pretty good idea of his abilities. Sometimes a guy will put up a one-year statistical blip -- like when Chone Figgins walked 101 times in 2009 -- and that's all it is, a blip.

But every once in a while we get a Jose Bautista situation, when a guy performs in a manner that is so radically different from what we've seen from him before that we have to reconsider our perception of him, which brings us to Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton. Drafted by Atlanta in 2002, he was sent to the Bucs as part of the Nate McLouth trade two years ago. After posting a 7.57 ERA last season (with a 2-12 record) he remodeled his delivery after Roy Halladay and suddenly has a Doc-esque 2.51 ERA with two complete games in 10 starts.

In Sabermetrics 101, we'd probably look at his 2010 batting average on balls in play (.353) and compare it to his 2011 BABIP (.283) and conclude that he was insanely unlucky last year, a bit fortunate this year, and his real skill level is probably somewhere in the middle. The problem is that the rest of Morton's stat line is so atypical that we can't fall back on such facile analysis.